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Huimin Zhao

For CRISPR, tweaking DNA fragments yields highest efficiency rates yet

January 2, 2020

University of Illinois researchers achieved the highest reported rates of inserting genes into human cells with the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system, a necessary step for harnessing CRISPR for clinical gene-therapy applications.

By chemically tweaking the ends of the DNA to be inserted, the new technique is up to five times more efficient than current approaches. The researchers saw improvements at various genetic locations tested in a human kidney cell line, even seeing 65% insertion at one site where the previous high had been 15%.


January 2, 2020


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MAGIC system allows researchers to modulate activity of genes acting in concert

December 16, 2019

Genomic research has unlocked the capability to edit the genomes of living cells; yet so far, the effects of such changes must be examined in isolation. In contrast, the complex traits that are of interest in both fundamental and applied research, such as those related to microbial biofuel production, involve many genes acting in concert. A newly developed system will now allow researchers to fine-tune the activity of multiple genes simultaneously.


December 16, 2019


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Artificial intelligence to run the chemical factories of the future

November 13, 2019

A new proof-of-concept study details how an automated system driven by artificial intelligence can design, build, test and learn complex biochemical pathways to efficiently produce lycopene, a red pigment found in tomatoes and commonly used as a food coloring, opening the door to a wide range of biosynthetic applications, researchers report.  


November 13, 2019


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Project aims to revive natural product discovery

April 24, 2019

The mid-20th century was the golden age of natural product discovery. Scientists discovered groundbreaking drugs, like penicillin and tetracycline, from sources in nature.

But as the search for natural products continued, pharmaceutical companies kept finding the same products over and over again. By the early 2000s, most of these companies shut down their natural product discovery programs.


April 24, 2019


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Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold, former student Huimin Zhao celebrate award

December 10, 2018

On Monday, December 10, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards one half of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Dr. Frances H. Arnold, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology for her work in the directed evolution of enzymes. She shares the prize with the team of George P. Smith of the University of Missouri, Columbia, and Sir Gregory P. Winter of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK, who collaborated on the phage display of peptides and antibodies.


December 10, 2018


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A new way to do metabolic engineering

November 28, 2017

A novel method developed by a group of IGB researchers could change the way metabolic engineering is done.

Researchers from the IGB’s Biosystems Design theme, including Steven L. Miller Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Huimin Zhao, recently published a paper in Nature Communications outlining their new method, which could make the metabolic engineering process more efficient.


November 28, 2017


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Expanding the potential of metabolic engineering

November 20, 2017

For decades, scientists have used the natural processes in cells to create useful products such as chemicals and biofuels. 

This process, known as metabolic engineering, modifies the gene networks within cells to increase an organism’s ability to produce a specific substance. 


November 20, 2017


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